This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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November 28, 2007


Seasonal Weather...
Brrr... I just returned from walking Sam Parker (the family dog) and boy has it cooled off. I believe it was actually warmer first thing this morning. Although the thermometer reads 45 that north wind sure has a bite. I don't mind the cold weather as long as the wind is not blowing. Now don't get me wrong, when I say cold I am talking about temperatures in the 30's. I hate the 20's and anything below that is just too awful to talk about. For all of you who have read this newsletter, which is soon to be 8 years old, you know that I am happiest when I am outside and I am able to work in the garden. The unfortunate combination of lower temperatures and the wind chill simply make it unbearable. It looks as if my days outside are numbered. UGH!

We decorated the Christmas tree last night and I am quite pleased with the way it turned out. We purchased a 9ft. Fraser Fir from Family Tree Nursery and it is beautiful. I have close to 40 poinsettias being delivered on Friday. I believe I have found a place somewhere in the house for each of them. Since red is my favorite color poinsettias are hard to resist. My favorite variety is Olympus, known for its very deep red, almost burgundy leaves. It also has a bit of dark green variegation that runs throughout the already green leaves. It is quite a beauty! Don't forget about the poinsettia. It makes a great gift and also makes a beautiful display.

~ Shelly  

Wintry Mix Mess...
They are calling for a "wintry mix" this weekend. This kind of weather can wreak havoc on your trees and shrubs.  As snow and ice accumulates on branches they sag and may ultimately break.  Here are some tips for dealing with the problem:

For unbroken limbs that are sagging significantly:

  • Don't shake or beat the ice and snow off of them.  This is more likely to cause more damage than it prevents.
  • Gently brush off the loose stuff and leave the rest to melt slowly as temperatures rise.

For broken limbs:

  • Remove broken limbs as soon as practical.
  • Use sharp tools and make clean cuts. This will speed recovery next spring and create a better looking tree.

Deicer Damage...
When ice and snow pile up it's not unusual to reach for a deicing agent to help melt the frozen stuff away.  Deicers work by lowering the freezing point of water, creating a brine (chemical-water solution) and allowing water to evaporate. The oldest and most common deicing agent is sodium chloride (rock salt), but calcium chloride, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride are also used. The damaging effects of these materials on plants come from their reducing the ability of plants to take up water and the effects may not show up until late spring or summer when water stresses begin to prevail so donít expect damage to be immediate.

Limited use of deicers and spreading the ice slush when scooping it away over a wide area will lessen potential damage. Heavy applications of water in the spring season can also flush salts downward through the soil. The relatively new deicer Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) is made from dolomite (limestone) and acetic acid (vinegar) and has very minimal damaging effects on plants, animals, or concrete surfaces.


Frosty Footprints...
If you have ever walked across a frosted lawn that isn't dormant you may have noticed your footprints showing up later in the day. Though this is unsightly, it does not actually kill the turf. Grass blades are damaged but the crown is not. Actively growing turf will often recover after two to four mowings. Damage that occurs late in the fall (such as now) will continue to show damage until it is masked by the rest of the lawn turning brown due to cold weather.


Are Poinsettias Poisonous?
It seems that every year about this time the rumor is resurrected that poinsettias are poisonous.  Though there may be an allergic reaction to the milky sap, there has never been a recorded case of poisoning.  This rumor has been so persistent that members of the Society of American Florists have sought to dispel it by eating poinsettia leaves for the press.  In the 1985 AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, the poinsettia "has been found to produce either no effect (orally or topically) or occasional cases of vomiting


Still Time To Till...
Autumn is an excellent time to add organic materials and till garden soils. However, even winter can be a good time to take care of this chore as long as the soil isnít frozen. It is far wiser to till now than to wait until spring when cold, wet conditions can limit your ability to work soils easily. Working soil when it is wet destroys soil structure and results in hard clods that are very slow to break down.

There is a limitation to how much organic material such as leaves can be added in one application. Normally, a layer 5 to 6 inches deep is the maximum that can be added at one time. Shredding the material before application will encourage faster and more complete decomposition due to increased surface area.


Time To Mulch Roses?
It's still too early to mulch your roses.  Savvygardeners find it's best to wait for the ground to be fully frozen as this assures that the roses have been given a chance to "harden off". You can prepare for later mulching by collecting and setting aside the soil and mulch that you will use later. Cover this material with a tarp to keep it dry and once the ground has frozen you will have a good source of loose mulching material.

Christmas Tree Care...
One of the most enduring traditions of the season is the Christmas tree.  Here are some helpful tips if you are planning on putting one up yourself.

Your tree should have a fresh cut across the bottom, about 1 inch above the old base.  This removes any clogged wood that may not readily absorb water.  Next, it  should be placed in a stand with a large reservoir of water.  Depending upon the size, species, and location of the tree, it may absorb a gallon of water in the first day, so it should be checked frequently and re-watered as necessary.  Although some people advocate placing various substances in the water to preserve freshness, we recommend that you just keep the tree well-watered with regular tap water.

It is important that the tree always be kept watered and not allowed to dry out.  If the tree does become dried out, it may not be able to adequately absorb moisture once it is re-watered, and it will shed its needles prematurely.  A good rule of thumb is to treat a green Christmas tree just like a fresh bouquet of cut flowers. 

Your Christmas tree should be located in a safe place, preferably near a wall or corner where it is not likely to be knocked over.  Keeping the tree away from heat sources such as hot air ducts, wood stoves, fireplaces, etc., will help to preserve freshness and lessen fire danger.  Similarly, light cords and connections used in decorating the tree should be in good working condition.  Lights should always be turned off at bedtime or when leaving for an extended period of time. 

Fresh, well-watered Christmas trees do not represent a fire hazard.  Trees that are dried out, however, do.  The best fire retardant is to keep the tree supplied with plenty of water.


"A plant is like a self-willed man, out of whom we can obtain all which we desire, if we will only treat him his own way."

~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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